With their eyes on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge this month in Colorado, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda riders are spending two weeks training in the mountains, readying themselves for competition at altitude.
Team director Danny Van Haute said some of his riders live and train at high elevation, but others don’t. Being accustomed to the thinner air will be vital to the riders’ success.
The team is also doing some reconaissance, riding the routes of several stages in the race set for Aug. 22-28.
“We don’t want to go blindly into the race. We want to give as much advantage to our riders as we can,” Van Haute said.
Sean Mazich, Sergio Hernandez, Will Dickeson, Nic Hamilton, Jeremy Powers, Ken Hanson, Alex Hagman and Bernard van Ulden will race for Jelly Belly p/b Kenda.
“For me the adjustment has been quite typical, really feeling the third and fourth days,” Hamilton said. “Just stairs can prove a challenge.”
Hanson said he can feel things getting easier.
“I have been slowly adapting to the elevation,” he said. “Today I felt much better climbing a pass over 12,000 feet.”
Van Haute said he eased his riders into the new climate during the first week, sending them on two-to-three-hour rides. They’ve also done a lot of team bonding activities, going on ATV rides and trout fishing. But they’re increasing the duration and intensity of their training rides in the week leading up to the race.
“All the guys are in a great headspace as we are preparing,” Hamilton said. “As individuals we are taking all the right steps, but more importantly as a team we are taking all the right steps to accomplish our goals at the race.”
The team is staying in Evergreen, Colo., with host John Sladek, a longtime fan of the team.
Mazich, who suffered a crash recently racing at Elk Grove, Ill., has had to take it easy as he recovers, spending a couple hours each day on the trainer.
“I’m going crazy because we’re in such a beautiful place with some of the best riding in the world,” he said. “I’m still very much looking forward to the race and believe I can get healthy in time to do it and do well in it.”
Jelly Belly p/b Kenda will face off against 16 other teams, including several Pro Tour squads fresh off the Tour de France.
“This camp is very important for us to have in order to be competitive at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge,” Van Haute said. “You just can’t come into this race without doing something at altitude. As soon as we received the invitation we put our plan together, and there was no question that we had to come to Colorado early to get ready for this great event.”
[Photo by John Sladek]